Posts tagged ‘interest’

Cash Is Trash

The S&P 500 stock market index took a breather and ended its six-month winning streak, declining -4.8% for the month. Even after this brief pause, the S&P has registered a very respectable +14.7% gain for 2021, excluding dividends. Nevertheless, even though the major stock market indexes are roaming near all-time record highs, FUD remains rampant (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt).

As the 10-Year Treasury Note yield has moved up to a still-paltry 1.5% level this month, the talking heads and peanut gallery bloggers are still fretting over the feared Federal Reserve looming “tapering”. More specifically, Jerome Powell, the Fed Chairman and the remainder of those on the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) are quickly approaching the decision to reduce monthly bond purchases (i.e., “tapering”). The so-called, quantitative easing (QE) program is currently running at about $120 billion per month, which was established with the aim to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy.  Now that the COVID recovery is well on its way, the Fed is effectively trying to decrease the size of the current, unruly punch-keg down to the volume of a more manageable punch bowl.

Stated differently, even when the arguably overly-stimulative current bond buying slows or stops, the Federal Funds Rate is still effectively set at 0% today, a level that still offers plenty of accommodative fuel to our economy. Although interest rates will not stay at 0% forever, many people forget that between 2008 and 2015, the Fed Funds Rate stubbornly stayed sticky at 0% (i.e., a full punch bowl) for seven years, even without any spike in inflation.

Because the economy continues to improve, current consensus projections by economists show the first interest rate increase of this cycle (i.e., “liftoff”) to occur sometime in 2022 and subsequently climb to a still extraordinarily low level of 2.0% by 2024 (see “Dot Plot” below). For reference, the projected 2.0% figure would still be significantly below the 6.5% Fed Funds Rate we saw in the year 2000, the 5.3% in 2007, or the 2.4% in 2019. If history is any guide, under almost any scenario, Chairman Powell is very much a dove and is likely to tap the interest rate hike brakes very gently.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Low But Not the Lowest

In a world of generationally low interest rates, what I describe as our low bond yields here in the United States are actually relatively high, if you consider rates in other major industrialized economies and the trillions of negative-interest-rate bonds littered all over the rest of the world (see August’s article, $16.5 Trillion in Negative-Yielding Debt). Although our benchmark government rates are hovering around 1.5%, as you can see from the chart below, Germany is sitting considerably lower at -0.2%, Japan at 0.1%, France at 0.2%, and the United Kingdom at 1.0%.

Source: Yardeni Research & Haver Analytics

Taper Schmaper

As with many government related policies, the Federal Reserve often gets too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures, as it relates to our economy. I have illustrated the extent of how globally interconnected our world of interest rates is, and one taper announcement is unlikely to reverse a four-decade disinflationary declining trend in interest rates.

Back in 2013, after of five years of quantitative easing (QE) that began in 2008, investors were terrified that interest rates were artificially being depressed by a money-printing Fed that had gone hog-wild in bond buying. At that time, pundits feared an imminent explosion higher in interest rates once the Fed began tapering. So, what happened after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke broached the subject of tapering on June 19, 2013? The opposite occurred. Although 10-Year yields jumped 0.1% to 2.3% on the day of the announcement, interest rates spent the majority of the next six years declining to 1.6% in 2019, pre-COVID. As COVID began to spread globally, rates declined further to 0.95% in March of 2020, the day before Jerome Powell announced a fresh new round of quantitative easing (see chart below).

Source: Trading Economics (annotations by Sidoxia Capital Management)

Obviously, every economic period is different from previous ones, and fearing to fall off the floor to lower interest rate levels is likely misplaced at such minimal current rates (1.5%). However, panicking over potential exploding interest rates, as in 2013 (which did not happen), again may not be the most rational behavior either.

What to Do?

If interest rates are low, and inflation is high (see chart below), then what should you do with your money? Currently, if your money is sitting in cash, it is losing 4-5% in purchasing power due to inflation. If your money is sitting in the bank earning minimal interest, you are not going to be doing much better than that. Everybody’s time horizon and risk tolerance is different, but regardless of your age or anxiety level, you need to efficiently invest your money in a diversified portfolio to counter the insidious, degrading effects of inflation and generationally low interest rates. The “do-nothing” strategy will only turn your cash into trash, while eroding the value of your savings and retirement assets.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (October 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 1, 2021 at 1:34 pm 1 comment

Stocks…Bonds on Steroids

With all the spooky headlines in the news today, it’s no wonder everyone is piling into bonds. The Investment Company Institute (ICI), which tracks mutual fund data, showed -88% of the $14 billion in weekly outflows came from equity funds relative to bonds and hybrid securities. With the masses flocking to bonds, it’s no wonder yields are hovering near multi-decade historical lows. Stocks on the other hand are the Rodney Dangerfield (see Doug Kass’s Triple Lindy attempt) of the investment world – they get “no respect.” By flipping stock metrics upside down, we will explore how hated stocks can become the beloved on steroids, if viewed in the proper context.

Davis on Debt Discomfort

Chris Davis, head of the $65 billion in assets at the Davis Funds, believes like I do that navigating the “bubblicious” bond market will be a treacherous task in the coming years.  Davis directly states, “The only real bubble in the world is bonds. When you look out over a 10-year period, people are going to get killed.” In the short-run, inflation is not a real worry, but it if you consider the exploding deficits coupled with the exceedingly low interest rates, bond investors are faced with a potential recipe for disaster. Propping up the value of the dollar due to sovereign debt concerns in Greece (and greater Europe) has contributed to lower Treasury rates too. There’s only one direction for interest rates to go, and that’s up. Since the direction of bond prices moves the opposite way of interest rates, mean reversion does not bode well for long-term bond holders.

Earnings Yield: The Winning Formula

Average investors are freaked out about the equity markets and are unknowingly underestimating the risk of bonds. Investors would be in a better frame of mind if they listened to Chris Davis.  In comparing stocks and bonds, Davis says, “If people got their statement and looked at the dividend yield and earnings yield, they might do things differently right now. But you have to be able to numb yourself to changes in stock prices, and most people can’t do that.” Humans are emotional creatures and can find this a difficult chore.

What us finance nerds learn through instruction is that a price of a bond can be derived by discounting future interest payments and principle back to today. The same concept applies for dividend paying stocks – the value of a stock can be determined by discounting future dividends back to today.

A favorite metric for stock jocks is the P/E (Price-Earnings) ratio, but what many investors fail to realize is that if this common ratio is flipped over (E/P) then one can arrive at an earnings yield, which is directly comparable to dividend yields (annual dividend per share/price per share) and bond yields (annual interest/bond price).

Earnings are the fuel for future dividends, and dividend yields are a way of comparing stocks with the fixed income yields of bonds. Unlike virtually all bonds, stocks have the ability to increase dividends (the payout) over time – an extremely attractive aspect of stocks. For example, Procter & Gamble (PG) has increased its dividend for 54 consecutive years and Wal-Mart (WMT) 37 years – that assertion cannot be made for bonds.

As stock prices drop, the dividend yields rise – the bond dynamics have been developing in reverse (prices up, yields down). With S&P 500 earnings catapulting upwards +84% in Q1 and the index trading at a very reasonable 13x’s 2010 operating earnings estimates, stocks should be able to outmuscle bonds in the medium to long-term (with or without steroids). There certainly is a spot for bonds in a portfolio, and there are ways to manage interest rate sensitivity (duration), but bonds will have difficulty flexing their biceps in the coming quarters.

Read the full article on Chris Davis’s bond and earnings yield comments

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and WMT, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in PG,  or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 24, 2010 at 1:17 am Leave a comment

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